The Moment  You Were Gone

The Moment You Were Gone by Nicci Gerrard Read Free Book Online

Book: The Moment You Were Gone by Nicci Gerrard Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nicci Gerrard
an ornate buckle that she couldn’t remember having seen before, a sewing-box, a dress that had slipped from its hanger, a box of old school books and GCSE course-work, a couple of paperbacks (
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
and a dog-eared Agatha Christie omnibus) and a black bin bag packed with clothes Sonia had grown out of but couldn’t bear to throw or give away. It was clearly hidden, not meant to be found, let alone read. She was an honest woman; she prided herself on being trustworthy and even felt a bit guilty when she snuck a glance at postcards friends had left lying around on their kitchen table. Nevertheless, she found herself pulling the notebook out of the bag. Knowing that she shouldn’t, she opened it. The writing, in blue ink, was round, neat, familiar. The date was at the top – 1 September 2005 – and underlined.
It’s three in the morning, muggy and warm, and I’m writing this to you although I don’t even know who you are. I don’t know what to call you because you don’t have a face or a name. You could be anyone at all, and for as long as I can remember that has scared me. Really scared me – not like thekind of nervousness I get before exams, when I have to take deep breaths to clear the tightness in my chest. More like the fear I feel in nightmares, black waves coiling over me, and even after I have lurched awake and know it was all a dream, it takes time for the fear to lift. Ominous, that’s the word. I can feel it all day, like a great black monster on my back. I mean, what if you turn out to be – oh, I don’t know – weird in some way? What if something’s wrong with you? What if I hate you or you hate me? There’s a thought experiment we all did once, when we had to try to make ourselves not think of something and of course we couldn’t. If you try not to think of something, that’s what you’re thinking of. I’m trying not to think about you. I think about you all the time. I’m always looking around me and wondering, Is that you? The one in that coat, the one with the dog, the small one with a shuffling walk, the old one, the rich one, the poor one, the beggar in the town centre whose buttons are all undone and whose hand is outstretched and whose red face is a mixture of humility and hatred, the unhinged one who’s shouting at the whole world and nobody wants to look at because it’s as if they’ll be cursed; the one who meets my eye and smiles, or doesn’t smile, who looks away … Even writing this, my mouth goes dry and my heart beats a bit faster.
    And I don’t even know why I’m writing to you. Well, I guess I talk to you often enough in my head. Other people talk to their cat or their hamster or something. My friend Goldie talks to her fish, for goodness’ sake, I’ve seen her do it. She presses her face against the bowl, so her eyes go goggly, and mutters things. Mad. I have a dog – he’s a golden retriever, George, and I’ve had him since I was six so he’s pretty old now; he lies in the porch and farts a lot, and whenever I go near him, evenif his eyes are closed, he thumps his tail on the floor-and I have been known to talk to him when I’ve felt that no one else in the world understands me. But mostly I talk to you. I have to warn you, what I say isn’t always
loving. Lots of times, I’ve told you I hate you. Can you hate someone you don’t know?
    We had this teacher in year eleven, who took us for life skills. Mrs Sadler. She was short and dumpy and always wore skirts just below her knees, and cardigans; she left last term because she had cancer and I don’t know if she’s going to be all right or not. She did all the required stuff - you know, about sex and taking proper precautions and about being in a caring relationship and about being able to say no and having self-esteem; or about drugs and how smoking’s the most dangerous drug of all and how you don’t need to follow the group. Blah-blah. And after all that, or alongside it, I

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